University bans unauthorised protests

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The Independent Online

A university has taken out an injunction against "unauthorised protests" on its campus. The order, granted by the High Court, prevents would-be protesters from occupying buildings owned by the Birmingham University for the next 12 months.

The move, prompted by a small occupation of a building and protests over rising fees at the university, was criticised by students and activists, who said that universities should be "places to develop citizens, not silence dissent". Liam Burns, the president of the NUS, said: "The idea that students should seek permission for protest action somewhat misses the point of an occupation.

"The university should immediately drop this injunction and enter into a dialogue with students rather than slapping an injunction across campus for a full year without even consulting their students' union."

He said the move was tantamount to "using a hammer to crack a nut".

Sheffield University dropped a similar legal bid earlier this year.

Birmingham University said the injunction was sought after evidence emerged suggesting that "further attempts to occupy university buildings were being planned".

A spokesman said: "Universities are places of free speech and we respect the rights of students and staff to protest peacefully and within the law. Our priority is the safety and well-being of our students, staff and the wider community and we are concerned where any protest causes unwarranted disruptions to study or work, or damage to property."